Homeless no More: Midlands family celebrates Thanksgiving in new home
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A Midlands family who has been through a lot over the last year received a special blessing this Thanksgiving.
Lemetress Stevenson and her two kids have been living at St. Lawrence Place. While there, she has been working two jobs, taking budgeting classes, improving her job skills and saving money.
It's all part of a program called Homeless No More. The goal is to provide more affordable housing options and help families become self-sufficient.
Wednesday night the Stevenson family got a first look at their new home live on WIS. Some good Samaritans came together and furnished practically the entire house.
Stevenson has to pay rent and all the bills but she says she's ready to do so.
"I've been through a lot the last few years," she said. "This is just so -- I'm so overwhelmed -- and excited and happy all at the same time"
Stevenson and her two kids, 10-year-old Akeelah and 14-year-old Dedrick, were living at St. Lawrence Place. It's a community that provides temporary housing for homeless families. But it's much more than a shelter.
"If it wasn't for St. Lawrence place I don't know, I just don't know, I can't say where I would be today," she said.
It isn't where Stevenson wanted to be, but of a dangerous situation, it is where she needed to go.
"I just couldn't take it no more," she said. "Like one day it was, 'we can't do this no more,' we just couldn't and I had to really think about my children, too because that wasn't good for them to wake up and come home to that"
For a year a small two-bedroom apartment was home. Moving to St. Lawrence Place was better but not easy.
"Especially when I got here and I learned some of the rules and regulations I was like, 'oh but it's OK,'" she said.
"While families are with us they complete their education, if that something that's needed, they work on what we call their employability which means they may come here with a 20 hour per week job and when they graduate they have a 40 hour a week job," said Lila Anna Sauls, Executive Director of St. Lawrence Place.
Sauls said residents are required to work on a specific family plan that covers everything from how to dress for a job to repairing their credit.
"Something I never did before was thinking about finances and budgeting my money, even with three children. I just went with the flow. They taught me how to do that," Stevenson said.
But until recently, they were missing something really big.
"What we found was our families were doing everything they were supposed to be doing they have full-time jobs they were saving money and when they graduated from the program they had nowhere to go, so we took step back and decided to branch out and create what they call Live Oak Place, which is affordable housing," Sauls said.
But it's not the kind of housing that you might think. Instead of all the families being in one area where stereotypes and labels typically follow, the homes are scattered throughout Columbia.
For Stevenson, it's meant working two jobs, a lot of discipline and sacrifice.
"It's difficult looking at my children and not having a place for them to call their own," she said. "They'll love it, they're ready, they're talking about you know the house they know we're moving soon but they just don't know where"
Akeelah, who's an honor student and loves to play outside, had her heart set on a room pretty in pink.
Big brother says a sports theme would be cool but he's just happy he won't have to watch his little sisters' TV shows any more.
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